Thanks to my great beta readers: Merry (who named this story), Tanya and Lucy; and to Kris K. for advice on characterization for the Poltergeist: The Legacy characters. Martha for inspiration.
This was originally written in 1998, but I'm currently working on the sequel.
To an outside observer, Derek Rayne looked like the typical business executive, seated in his expensive office, the morning sun illuminating a view of the San Francisco Bay in the window behind him. A distinguished looking man, younger than the grey in his hair suggested, with a strong intelligent face, he looked at home behind the expansive desk. He was intently studying financial reports, a mundane necessity that took time away from the true purpose of the Legacy. Regardless of the number of demons threatening the world of light, someone still had to pay the electric bill.
Still, Derek supposed there was comfort to be found in such things, and he'd probably wish he was arguing with the plumber the next time some spawn of Satan was menacing him.
Derek looked up from his papers as the phone rang. It seemed to be a morning for interruptions. First Kat wanted to show him her school project, then Rachel needed some advice on how to handle a case she was working on. It wasn't with a little frustration that he answered, "Hello?"
"Hello, is this the Luna Foundation?"
"Yes it is. May I ask who's calling?"
"Blair Sandburg. May I speak with Derek Rayne?" A young voice, struggling to subvert its eagerness with a professional tone.
"I'm Derek Rayne."
"Great! Dr. Rayne, I'm a teaching fellow at the Rainier University Anthropology Department. One of my professors, John White, suggested that I call you."
"I know Professor White. What can I help you with, Mr. Sandburg?"
"The professor thought that you might allow me to see some of your books and manuscripts. My research is based on the work of Sir Richard Burton, specifically sentinels in pre-civilized cultures. He was certain that he'd seen mention of them in one of your texts on mysticism and ancient tribal rites."
The young man spoke in a fast, steady stream, barely taking a breath between words. Derek could almost feel the energy pouring through the phone.
"That could well be, but we don't allow any of our rare books to leave the premises. They're far too valuable."
Mr. Sandburg's voice slowed and became more careful. To Derek, it sounded as if he was putting some effort into not sounding like a teenager who'd just been told he can't have the keys to the car.
"I understand completely, sir."
The disappointment only lasted a second. His voice resumed it's breakneck speed, and Derek received a very clear impression that nothing ever kept Blair Sandburg down for long. "Is there any way I could come down and spend an hour or two some day to research this? I don't want to impose, but any documentation on sentinels is rare, and it would be so important to my work if I could find something there."
"May I have your phone number, Mr. Sandburg? I'd like to discuss this with my colleagues." Derek took down the young man's office and cell phone numbers and promised to call back later.
It was an interesting call, but why would John White give the Foundation's number to a grad student without consulting him first? Derek flipped through his rolodex and dialed the phone.
The professor had an interesting tale to tell. According to White, the young anthropologist had found a living, breathing thesis subject in the form of a Detective James Ellison of the Cascade Police Department. Although Mr. Sandburg refused to admit this to the professor, White had little doubt. The conviction rate on crimes assigned to the detective had reached nearly 100% since Sandburg had been working with him. White believed that he was helping the detective control his sentinel abilities.
"What exactly are these abilities?"
"Oh, pardon me. I'm assuming you know what I'm talking about. A sentinel, according to Mr. Sandburg, is someone with extraordinarily enhanced senses. For example, the ability to see a pencil on a fifth story window ledge from two blocks away. Or, as Blair so charmingly puts it, the ability to hear a mouse fart from a hundred paces. Only a true sentinel would have all five senses magnified to this degree."
"And you believe you saw something regarding this phenomenon in the Foundation library?"
"Almost certain. Blair's work is groundbreaking in many ways. I was sure you wouldn't have a problem letting him do a little research. And, of course, any kudos or fame he receives after he publishes can only reflect well on the university."
Ah, so there it was. John White had always put his love of the university above all else, and he was helping this young man not out of any respect for his research, but for what his research might do for Rainier. "You believe he's serious about what he's doing? He sounded young."
"He's a brilliant boy, totally devoted to his subject. I wish I had half the energy in my old bones that he does."
"Very well. I'll see what I can do to help him."
As much as Derek disliked having strangers in the house, the idea of having a fellow anthropologist to talk to, especially one who seemed to have made a fascinating discovery, was appealing to him. He would invite Philip to help the anthropologist with his research. It would do the young priest some good, he thought, to help an academic who was not in the throes of demonic possession.
Derek chose to announce the news while everyone was gathered for lunch.
"We'll be having a visitor to the Luna Foundation this weekend. He'll be doing some anthropology research. Philip will be coming to help him in the library. I think the rest of us can be trusted to keep a low profile since there's nothing pressing going on at the moment."
Nick Boyle leaned back in his chair, looking at Derek through hooded eyes. He had taken on the role of protector of late, and seemed to feel it was his duty to check out anyone who might be a threat to his friends. "A friend of yours, Derek?"
"No, I've never met him. A professor who was involved in a Legacy case several years ago recommended that he come here. The young man is a research fellow doing work on sentinels, and apparently the professor has seen something in the library relevant to his work on that subject."
"I don't like this. We don't know anything about him."
"We'll find out soon enough. Mr. Sandburg will be here in two days."
Nick started to voice another objection and Derek raised his hand. "We rely on others for vital information in our work. I believe that we're obligated to return the favor when possible."
Rachel took a sip of coffee and asked, "What exactly is a sentinel?"